Whirlwinds of activity and excitement seem to be becoming somewhat of a theme this year, and this long weekend was another fantastic ride through foreign streets accompanied by friends from afar. I left the city late Friday afternoon (on what was possibly the most claustrophobic, teensy little plane I’ve ever been on – we had to move three passengers plus luggage to the back of the jet so the weight was spread evenly enough for takeoff!) and watched an orange sun illuminate the sky as we rode, sandwiched between two layers of cloud, through a glowing dreamscape down towards the coastline of Chicago. There’s something to be said about solitary travel – it’s a great time, with no distractions, for seeing the world from a new perspective, and for inner reflection. I arrived in O’Hare airport where I was soon met by two ladies I’ve known only in the realms of cyberspace for the last year or so, who greeted me with a gigantic squeeze and my first ever welcome sign, made with the help of our fabulous hotel concierge, Ian.
We took the L train (JUST like in Time Traveller’s Wife!) downtown, noshed up, and soaked up the experience of finally meeting each other in the flesh for the first time. In the last year, I’ve exchanged (sometimes daily) emails, text messages, phone calls and Skype dates with these girls more often than I have most people I know in real life. Seeing a relationship built through technology come to life in the real world was a surreal and wonderful experience, and we spent the next three days taking on the Windy City in style.* We walked for miles, taking in landmarks, amazing food, my first sangria, and truly breathtaking architecture. My heart was literally swooning as we trekked through downtown, surrounded by culture, life, and gorgeous towers soaring toward the sky. Every American I met was an absolute sweetheart, especially our fantastic doorman at the hotel, “Showtime”, whose enthusiasm and genuine love for life spilled out at the seams. He sent us off every night with a hug, a laugh, and a coupon for something wonderful.
We explored fancy shops and dreamed of being able to clean out places full of beautiful clothes and ornate houseware. We found original Glee costumes, had movie pyjama parties (complete with an unfortunate case of The Titanics, in which I bawled my eyes out for a good twenty minutes and proceeded to get VERY much laughed at :)), soared 103 storeys into the sky and braved the glass bottomed boxes looking down on the city below. We adorned ourselves with silk roses and crystal penguins, and I realised that five inch heels can simultaneously be a girl’s best friend and mortal enemy. We got lost in countless book shops, both modern and vintage, where I found myself wishing luggage would come in TARDIS form. We found the most amazing little sci-fi coffee house, plastered with oversized eighties film posters, with stuffed models of ET and ninja turtles perched atop every surface. I met even more bloggers, old friends and new ones, toured the local brewery, and witnessed the fastest and most inopportune blackout I’ve ever seen. The three days went by in a flash, but there was something quite magical about this trip.
If it weren’t for blogging, I would never have met five of the people in this photograph. I’ve always written, but I’ve only been properly blogging for about a year now, and some of the relationships I’ve been blessed enough to develop have become some of the most treasured in my life. Friends who are on speed dial, ready to cheer you on, or to defend against runaway snotrockets (new readers: yes, it happened, yes, it was in the face). Friends who’ve given me opportunities to help make the world a better place. Friends who send surprise cards, letters, and handmade gifts in the post, and friends who’ll happily exchange nerdy Doctor Who stories for hours on end. The world can seem an awfully vast place, but thanks to this online community, can seem rather comfortable… and not quite so big after all. Seeing the voices you’ve known so long through words and photographs on screens come to life was an amazing experience, and I only wish I’d had more time to fully spend with each and every one of these fantastic people. Chicago was an absolutely stunning city, and I have no doubt I’ll be heading back before too long. I arrived home after a plane ride accompanied by snapshots and science magazines, in one happy, exhausted, and exhilarated piece. Thank you Chicago, for capturing my heart, and thank you to everyone I was lucky enough to meet this weekend… who proved once again just how brilliant this online community really is. Until next time… 🙂